Aluminium vs Carbon Full Suspension MTB

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  • Aluminium vs Carbon Full Suspension MTB
  • soobalias
    Member

    What are the pros and cons of each?

    Does carbon resist rock strikes sufficiently? Does it suffer from cable rub just like a Alu frame? Is there any noticable ride quality difference (aside from weight*) or is it all hidden by plush shocks and large tyres?
    *Is there even a weight difference or is it just blingyness

    5thElefant
    Member

    Does carbon resist rock strikes sufficiently?

    Yes.

    Does it suffer from cable rub just like a Alu frame?

    Yes.

    Is there any noticable ride quality difference (aside from weight*) or is it all hidden by plush shocks and large tyres?

    Hard to say in isolation. I’ll go for no.

    Is there even a weight difference or is it just blingyness

    Yes.

    I’ve been using carbon frames for 15+ years. I haven’t broken one, or any carbon component. I have broken aluminium frames and seat posts.

    cynic-al
    Member

    What he said apart from anecdotal breakage comments.

    It’s about the individual bike, not material.

    wrecker
    Member

    The only bike I have ever warrantied (and I have owned a few…) was a carbon santa cruz. Just for balance.

    joeegg
    Member

    Talking to a friend who is a frame designer he said his company was looking to bring out a carbon full suss.
    The weight difference between the alu and carbon frame was less than 300g but the investment costs to start producing carbon frames to their design were huge.He just couldn’t see the point and it was actually about marketing because they didn’t have a carbon bike in their range.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    I got put down in another thread for racing an Aluminium bike. Therefore Carbon must of course be better. 8)

    z1ppy
    Member

    the usually stated advantage of carbon nowadays (in non-XC circles) is not significant weight loss, but increased strength with a small added weight loss,.

    The only bikes I ever warranted were Ali, & I’ve owned a few.. 😯

    julians
    Member

    My previous bike was a carbon ‘super’ bike (Ibis mojo hD), my current bike is aluminium.

    There were no downsides to the bike being made out of carbon other than the price, but there were also no significant upsides either. I think where there is both a carbon version and alum version of the same frame , the carbon one typically weighs in around 300-400 g lighter, I guess it may also be stiffer, but its debatable whether you would notice.

    IMO – the price differential of most carbon bikes compared to alu bikes is not insignificant, and for me the benefits of carbon in actual use were not worth paying the premium for, so when the time came for a new bike after the Mojo HD, I went back to Aluminium.

    philjunior
    Member

    Talking to a friend who is a frame designer he said his company was looking to bring out a carbon full suss.
    The weight difference between the alu and carbon frame was less than 300g but the investment costs to start producing carbon frames to their design were huge.He just couldn’t see the point and it was actually about marketing because they didn’t have a carbon bike in their range.

    300g in a frame is quite a bit of weight, if you are in any way weight conscious. >10% of the component weight at least – and I wouldn’t say losing 10% of the weight of any of my bikes would be “pointless”. Well no more so than riding about in the woods for fun.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    2 current frames are carbon, they work awesome.

    No complaints, light tough and stiff.

    Premier Icon phutphutend
    Subscriber

    Why no steel in this comparison?

    For a slight penalty in weight, steel does offer benefits of a lively ride feel and silence. Along with much great damage tolerance than either carbon or steel and a lifetime of easy reparability.

    5thElefant
    Member

    Why no steel in this comparison?

    Does anyone make a steel FS frame?

    Premier Icon phutphutend
    Subscriber

    http://www.starlingcycles.com are the best.

    But also; Cotic, BTR, DMR, Caminade.

    Paul@RTW
    Member

    Carbon composite frames are relatively easy and cheap to fix. I know it’ll depend on the break but snapped a seat stay. Fixed it with a bit of string and some glue. I have not exploded into a thousand shards of death yet.

    maxtorque
    Member

    phutphutend

    For a slight penalty in weight, steel does offer benefits of a lively ride feel and silence.

    eh? Whilst using steel on a fully rigid or perhaps HT bike can show improvements in ride quality, on any FS bike the suspension will dominate at any ride frequency! (Assuming you haven’t pumped your shocks up to about 400psi that is….. 😉 )

    wrecker
    Member

    There is eff all chance I’d buy a steel FS bike. Completely pointless.

    Premier Icon phutphutend
    Subscriber

    Don’t mock it until you tried it…

    My Starling frames have received great reviews from Dirt and Wideopen.

    With great reviews coming from MBUK and Enduro-Mtb coming soon.

    The feel of steel is real and the reviews reinforce this. Aluminium is easy to produce. Carbon can command high prices. Steel full suspension bikes are just quite hard to manufacture on a large scale, which is why you don’t see them. It doesn’t mean they are not a good solution.

    choppersquad
    Member

    Check out the breakage test on a carbon Nomad frame on youtube.
    Astonishing.

    creamegg
    Member

    My mates on his third warranty replacement Nomad. I guess its a good way to get a new frame every year

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Subscriber

    Carbon pros:
    It’s lighter
    The frames, generally, and to my eye, look nicer (beautifully welded customs aside)
    It’s easy to get repaired
    I’ve found that they are stifferer, meaning the suspension goes up and down, and doesn’t flex so much.
    Carbonz innit

    Alu pros
    It’s cheaper
    If you like the industrial look, or have a penchant for filing cabinets, I guess someone might prefer that.
    Easier to spot potential damage, before it fails catastrophically. (Not that I’ve had any issues with either material)
    Allows you to sneer at riders on carbon frames (atgni, waste of money, etc)

    Steel pros:
    It’s real.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    but there were also no significant upsides either

    Corrosion resistance has to be one.

    Van Halen
    Member

    Are their significant environmental impact differences? I know alu is pretty horrid to make but not sure about carbon?. Also you can recycle aluminium. Can you with carbon?

    stevious
    Member

    Steel is real.

    Carbon is lardons.

    Nothing rhymes with aluminium.

    theocb
    Member

    IMO I would say frame weight is the only factor worth considering. Does an extra pound mean a lot to you?

    A 27lb carbon build will become a 28lb alu build but you will have an extra grand in your piggy bank.

    Premier Icon mtbfix
    Subscriber

    Nothing rhymes with aluminium

    Titanium?

    zero cool
    Member

    The Starling is a great bike, and a lot of time was spent getting it right. If I had enough money I’d consider one, but will probably end up with an Alu Capra. I’ve ridden an Alu and a carbon Capra (with similar fork &a shock) and I think the carbon one just edges it out on how it feels and performed. Not sure why but I was a bit faster and it felt a bit ‘nicer’. But for about £2k I’d get the alu version as it can’t really be beaten for performance or spec.

    I think the advantages with carbon are strength, weight or ride characteristics be pending on how it’s been made. It’s easier to make a light strong bike in carbon or a really strong bike. But I believe they can adjust how much flex is in it and where that flex is with carbon.

    jimw
    Member

    I know I have posted on these lines before but:

    I have owned three carbon Framed FS bikes. They all broke. I have had a number of steel, titanium and aluminium framed bikes. None have broken (yet) . I was told by the dealer that I was unlucky with the carbon bikes.
    A mate of mine is just about to get his third warranty Trek carbon frame in two years of ownership.
    Another friend has broken two carbon Giant Anthem frames. (but to be fair he does bounce on them like tigger at any/every opportunity)
    Another friend had his Carbon Pivot fail on a jump in the Alps- how he escaped hurting himself no one knows.

    For balance, two people who had 09 model Lapierre Zesty’s had the (aluminium) rear triangle crack that many of that age succumbed to and another alloy Trek rear triangle failed.

    My long winded point is that any material has problems, the design of the bike makes a significant difference, but…. I’ve been put off carbon because of mine and others experiences.

    julians
    Member

    Corrosion resistance has to be one.

    Whilst carbon is resistant to corrosion, I’ve never had any corrosion issues with my alu frames either, so I wouldnt call that an upside compared to alu.

    It comes down to money, and for me its not worth paying an extra (say) £800 for the carbon frame to save 300g.

    If it were only an extra £50, then yep I’d have the carbon frame every time, who wouldnt.

    It depends where you draw the line, I think I’d maybe pay an extra £200-£300 for a 300g lighter carbon frame, but beyond that for me it starts to get marginal.

    philjunior
    Member

    IMO I would say frame weight is the only factor worth considering. Does an extra pound mean a lot to you?

    A 27lb carbon build will become a 28lb alu build but you will have an extra grand in your piggy bank.

    True. But if you’re feeling rich you might care more about 1lb thank £1k. And if the volumes are high enough the tooling costs don’t increase the price too much – I’d be suprised tbh if anyone charging £1k extra for their carbon frame wasn’t doing so mainly in order to increase its perceived quality.

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if carbon frames ended up being similar in cost to aluminium at some point – though it is harder to subsequently update the design of course.

    Alu does have the advantage of being easily recyclable, but tbh you can always burn carbon to dispose of it. I would imagine it makes a fairly good fuel.

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Subscriber

    Also, because of upgradeitis, a 1lb frame weight difference won’t equate to a 1lb total loss, as if given the option, a lot of folk will go for the blingier kit to hang off it. Not upgrading to carbon bars on an Alu frame is fine, but leaving alu bars on a carbon w***chariot? Oh for shame…. Another few grammes lost (even if they are cheap £13 carbon ones) etc etc

    My first crabon superbike/w***chariot cracked it’s rear triangle in less than 5 months, and the thing creaks and groans like a banshee even when it’s not broken. My trusty Reign ran 4 years without a murmur, and cost half as much. I’m heading back to aluminium, that Santa Cruz marketing BS video has a lot to answer for…

    b r
    Member

    Current 26″ FS is carbon, next 29″ FS will be carbon.

    Also for us tall folk we save more than the mythical 1lb.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    and the thing creaks and groans like a banshee even when it’s not broken.

    Which bit of carbon frame is creaking a day groaning out of interest…

    arogers
    Member

    I’m currently on an aluminium bike but have owned a few of each. All things being equal I would ride a carbon frame. My main reason being the very slight damped feel they give – carbon seems to iron out a bit of vibration. Also added stiffness possibly but I haven’t ridden the same bike in both materials to tell. All other characteristics, IMHO, are specific to the bike design, not the build material.

    Oh, and I’ve cracked one of each: Carbon was an easy, seamless fix. Alu was a write off..

    The majority of entry level carbon full sus frames come with Alu rear triangles.

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